From Under A Rock: Snakes on a Plane
It’s the end of the year. You’re going to see all sorts of “best of” lists and discussion over things of the highest quality. You’ll be getting that from us, even, in about a month where we’ll discuss what the top movies of 2016 have been. But to end this God-forsaken year, I just want to have some fun, so that’s the motivation for this week’s pick.
You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.
Last week Aaron showed Michael A Christmas Story for the first time. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock for Snakes on a Plane.
Snakes on a Plane
Released: August 18th, 2006
Directed by: David R. Ellis
Written by: Sebastian Gutierrez & John Heffernan
Samuel L. Jackson as Agent Neville Flynn
Julianna Margulies as Claire Miller
Nathan Phillips as Sean Jones
A bunch of snakes as The Snakes on the Plane
Michael Ornelas: This movie came out when I was 17 years old, and it was one I was fervently anticipating just due to its name value alone. It was also the first time I snuck a friend into an R-rated movie because I was a *cool* 17 year-old. Unlike David. Fuck you David!
Sorry. Just had a flashback to high school. Anyways. This movie had me jazzed and it was a blast. I like to throw it in every once in awhile and experience it again and again. Because it’s fun, and life’s too short not to do things just because they’re fun.
Aaron Hubbard: Obviously I’d heard about this movie. How could you not? I probably wouldn’t have bothered to see it without Michael asking me to, but I have to admit, I was excited to see it and it was better than I expected it to be.
Michael: I’ve already said it a few times, but I picked this movie for the “fun” factor. We get Samuel L. Jackson just badassing about, being the perfect professional in his role, and we get ridiculous moments based on the titular premise. Sure, the movie didn’t exactly excel during the establishing moments of the movie where we are building to the release of the snakes, but once the action gets going, it’s a blast all the way to the end (even if the acting is terrible outside of SLJ and Julianna Margulies).
Aaron: I like Kenan Thompson too, honestly. You hit the nail on the head though; this movie is a ton of fun to watch. I expected this to be a “so bad it’s good” movie, but it’s more like “so average it’s alright” quality. It struggles early on (with some cringe-worthy editing when people should be getting hit), but the meat of the film is very entertaining. It reminded me a lot of Face/Off in that way, though not as good.
Michael: Yeah, Face/Off is the best at doing this type of movie, I think. I totally agree on the expectation of “so bad it’s good” being shattered. It holds a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes right now, so it actually is “fresh” and didn’t bomb critically. Self-awareness is the key to anything having a chance to succeed. Look at Swiss Army Man (one of my favorite movies of the year, and if you haven’t seen it, do so ASAP!) — there’s no way that movie works if it doesn’t know what audiences are expecting from it. This movie tells you what you’re getting right in the title, so that’s the part that has to deliver, and it really does. They even do a nice little job while everyone’s boarding the flight to get the audience familiar with the cast of characters in the sense of who’s likable and who’s awful, and then we get to hedge our bets on who lives and who dies. They use that technique to manipulate our emotions. We obviously care about the little kid protecting his older brother and the whole crew of flight attendants were pretty fun. The only deaths that I felt weren’t played to full effectiveness were for the honeymooning couple. They suffered unceremoniously and brutally, and I thought they could have had more of a highlighted death instead of in the midst of chaos.
Aaron: Way back before I discovered my love of comics and wrestling, I had an obsession with wild animals. Books, magazines, TV shows, movies, you name it. As a consequence of this, I still know a fair bit about a lot of them. While the snakes behave more like the Jaws shark than any real snakes, I did appreciate the discussion of venom and anti-venom. If you don’t know which snake has bitten you, it’s a huge problem. This helped me buy into the movie and I felt the genuine tension of the situation. It wasn’t something I expected from this movie and I really appreciated it.
Michael: As you’ll see in my next section, this movie definitely doesn’t get everything right in terms of suspension of disbelief, but I agree with you on the snakes. I think given the “snakes” part of the title, they wanted to at least consult some experts in how they approached the process. Not only is it important to know which snake bit you, but the pheromones in the leis I thought were a great justification for why the snakes are so aggressive (although why they would then go on to bite the copulating couple in the bathroom who are leiless first is beyond me).
Aaron: The only bit that didn’t work for me was the giant constrictor, especially when it tried to eat the guy’s head. If they really wanted to go that route they should have thrown an anaconda on this plane. Also, after some internal debate, I am glad they used all CG snakes. I initially thought some practical effects would have been nice but it would have made the CGI look even worse in comparison.
Michael: While some smart considerations may have been made to make the snakes seem somewhat viable, the same can not be said for the physics involving the flight in the movie. The way they abused that plane took me out of the movie more often than the snakes did. The climax of the film was just bonkers. They blow a hole in the side of the plane, miraculously not losing any passengers other than the dickbag businessman who got devoured by the boa constrictor. Then, they expect us to believe that Kenan Thompson can land a plane after 2,000 hours on a video game?! KENAN THOMPSON???!!?!? I don’t buy it.
Aaron: Yeah the film definitely jumped a few sharks by the end, but I didn’t mind. I thought it was hilarious. I was genuinely shocked by how such a massive, luxurious plane had so few people on it. That can’t be cost effective. I get that Sam Jackson and the witness needed to travel, but surely they could have found another way to go about it?
Michael: It would have killed the movie, so I had my fair share of fun watching it play out. And while I’m crapping on how they used the plane at the end, it’s all tongue-in-cheek. It all actually made logical sense, even if unrealistic. It’s just a blast and the movie builds and builds up to that ending — in a way, it earned it. And then it gets me every time with the jump scare where we think Sean is safe, and then as he’s leaving, the snake jumps out and bites his chest, only to get shot out of the plane by Sam Jackson, and we assume he’s dead. Yay for bulletproof vests!
Aaron: It’s hard to give any serious critique of this movie. It’s exactly what it says it is. If the title piques your interest, you’ll probably enjoy this. You may even be surprised at how well it does a few things.
Michael: This movie is not “good.” It’s okay at best, but it really is just a fun time at the movies. It doesn’t challenge you to think, it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, and it delivers its fair share of memorable moments. This movie’s rating is about as high as I can give a movie with the distinctions I just made in describing it.
Aaron: I feel like in some ways this movie cemented Jackson as an icon. When you can sell this movie, you’re bigger than life.
Michael: Truth. He, and the title, were the only things drawing people to this film, and there’s no way it would have worked without him.
What other truly ridiculous movies do you enjoy watching?
Aaron: Next week we’ve got a cult classic on tap; one of my favorite comedies from one of my favorite director teams.
Michael: I’ve seen bits and pieces of this, but never the full thing all the way through, so it’s about time I fix that. This is definitely one of those big voids in my moviegoing past, so I look forward to the discussion.
Aaron: This movie is definitely a bit of a trip, and it’s hard to describe everything that’s going on.
Which Coen Brothers films stand out to you the most?
Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane